Giving the customers what they don’t know they want

There are days when I pinch myself for the fun I get to
have. That happened again last Friday, when I got to spend the day at
SolidWorks' millionth-seat
customer OGIO
.  Despite serious jet lag from an international flight,
CEO Mike Pratt gave up a part of his busy day to host a few of us so we could
get to know OGIO better.


If you’re into golfing, motocross, BMX or snowboarding, then
you’ve seen their products. If you’ve bought any, chances are you’re a happy
customer. This is a team that just gets it right when it comes to innovative
products that solve problems customers don’t even know they have. And that’s
the trick.


I asked Mike how he’s managed to stay on top of his game
(and the competition) for the last twenty plus years in such a brutally
competitive market. I expected him to say that “we give the customers what they
ask for.” But, surprisingly, he doesn’t rely on his customers for new ideas.
What his team does is tantamount to an exhaustive analytical analysis of WHAT
people do when they work and play hard. This method of really, really studying
things, coupled with a relentless dissatisfaction with the status quo, helps
OGIO find solutions that customers would never have figured on their own.


Look at
It looks like an ordinary bike stand–until you watch the video. No
customer told OGIO how to create this, but the problem was very well known. And
the golf bags–study the features and you’ll see
solutions to problems golfers had, but didn’t know how to fix on their own.


What’s remarkable about the OGIO culture is that by not *just*
listening to their customers, but really paying attention to what their
customers are doing, they actually show more RESPECT for those customers than
anyone around. That’s the trick!


Henry Ford was once asked about the importance of the “voice
of the customer” when he created the mass market for automobiles. His reply was
surprising, yet respectful: “If I’d asked people what they wanted, they’d have
said ‘faster horses’.“ Kudos to Mike and everyone at OGIO for reminding us
of what really matters–becoming an intimate part of your customer’s life.